Revival House: Nine Lame Sequel Premises

Sometimes a key actor can’t — or won’t — return for a sequel, so the filmmakers decide to write his or her character out of the series. Maybe they’ll reduce it to a phone conversation in which you can’t see or hear the actor, or perhaps they’ll resort to letting us know that the  character died sometime between the sequel you’re watching now and the previous installment. Or perhaps they killed off a character in the original film without knowing how popular that character would become, so for the sequel the writer has to figure out some kind of ludicrous way to bring him or her back. Perchance the writers think they’re really clever, they’ll play this card: “The events in the first film were only the beginning — there’s much deeper stuff going on here that you never knew about (neither did we, of course).” In the world of television it’s called “jumping the shark,” but in cinema I call it a Lame Sequel Premise. (The following article contains many spoilers, so proceed with caution.)

Alien³ (1992): Newt and Hicks died in hypersleep.

Alien3Had anyone told me that the director of this mess (also known as “Alien 3,” or “Alien Cubed,” or whatever else you want to call it) would end up being one of my favorite filmmakers, I would’ve laughed in their face. Granted, David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac) lost creative control while making the movie and now virtually disowns it, but still, the opening of Alien³ is beyond unforgivable: we find out that Rebecca “Newt” Jorden (Carrie Henn) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn), two beloved characters from the previous installment, 1986′s Aliens, died during hypersleep. Aliens‘s director, James Cameron, reportedly called this plot development “a slap in the face” of the franchise’s fans, and that’s precisely what it felt like to this fan. As far as I’m concerned, the series consists of Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1979) and Cameron’s sequel and that’s where it ends. I’m not even going to get into the lame “Ripley was cloned” business that made 1997′s Alien: Resurrection possible.

Off-Screen Character Death Lame-o-meter Rating: Should’ve Quit While They Were Ahead.

Jaws: The Revenge (1987): Martin Brody died in a shark attack.

I mean, really — fuck off! Roy Scheider’s Amity Island police chief didn’t survive the events of 1975′s Jaws and, to a lesser extent, 1978′s Jaws 2 only to be eaten by a frickin’ shark! The setup of Jaws: The Revenge, the fourth installment (1983′s Jaws 3-D centered on Brody’s two sons), is even dumber: a shark with an apparent vendetta is attacking members of the Brody family one by one.

Off-Screen Character Death Lame-o-meter Rating: Shit Sandwich.

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979): The SS Poseidon had a shipment of plutonium on it.

I have to admit, I don’t remember much about this sequel to 1972′s The Poseidon Adventure, and sorry, folks, but I wasn’t about to rewatch it to write this column. I remember bad guy Telly Savalas informing everyone that the Poseidon — a passenger liner, mind you — was carrying a lost plutonium shipment (and gold, apparently), and I remember nearly every scene concluding with good guy Michael Caine saying something to the effect of “We have to keep moving or this whole thing is going to blow” and then something suddenly exploding behind him. All I know is that even as a 14-year-old I didn’t buy it.

Bullshit Plot Twist Lame-o-meter Rating: You’re Right, This Whole Thing Blows.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986): The Freelings’ home was really built over a massive underground cavern.

I guess it wasn’t enough that the twist of the original Poltergeist (1982) was that the greedy real estate developer built the Freelings’ home over a cemetery, having moved the headstones but not the bodies. It turns out that beneath all those corpses is a massive underground cave where a Satanic cult perished in the 1800s, and the leader of that cult, Reverend Kane (Julian Beck), somehow became the beast who keeps coming after little Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke).

Bullshit Plot Twist Lame-o-meter Rating: A Little More Explanation Than We Needed.

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977): The demon who possessed Regan MacNeil begins targeting people with psychic abilities.

It claimed to be the Devil, but I guess it lied, because it turns out it was really an Assyrian demon named Pazuzu that possessed Regan (Linda Blair) in William Friedkin’s 1973 horror masterpiece. It’s explained in John Boorman’s sequel that Pazuzu specifically goes after those with psychic healing powers, and guess who’s showing signs of telepathic abilities?

Bullshit Plot Twist Lame-o-meter Rating: If Only They’d Been Clairvoyant Enough to Not Make the Movie in the First Place.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995): Hans Gruber had a brother.

Shortly after Jeremy Irons’s character, Simon, was introduced in the third Die Hard, I had a bad feeling. I turned to my friend and whispered, “He’s not going to turn out to be Hans Gruber’s brother, is he?” My friend instantly rejected the notion, saying, “They wouldn’t do anything like that,” meaning the caliber of writing for any new Die Hard adventure was obviously above such nonsense. But my hunch turned out to be correct: the bad guy is out to avenge the death of Alan Rickman’s Hans in the original film. Yeah, it turns out to be a diversion for an even bigger heist than Hans’s, but I had long since checked out of With a Vengeance by that point.

Sudden Sibling Lame-o-meter Rating: Yippee-ki-this!

Another48HrsAnother 48 Hrs. (1990): Albert Ganz had a brother.

It also turns out James Remar’s bad guy from 48 Hrs. (1982) had a brother. This one’s named Cherry (Andrew Divoff, known these days for playing Mikhail, a.k.a. Patchy, on Lost), and just like Simon Gruber, he’s out for revenge. In addition to this nonsense, the plot of Another 48 Hrs. revolves around an unseen character known as “the Ice Man,” who hires people to kill Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) because Reggie knows the heavy’s true identity. Falling into the Bullshit Plot Twist department, the Ice Man turns out to be police detective Jack Cates’s (Nick Nolte) partner, Kehoe (Brion James), despite the fact that Kehoe didn’t seem to be worried about Reggie at all in the first movie.

Bullshit Plot Twist and Sudden Sibling Lame-o-meter Rating: It Took Four Writers to Come Up With This Script?

City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994): Curly had a twin brother.

Listen up, folks — if you kill off a character in a movie, you can’t bring him back for the sequel (unless it’s Spock, of course). Curly’s death in the original City Slickers (1991) provided a darkly humorous and poignant moment — Jack Palance took home an Oscar for his performance — and the character turned out to be an important element of the first film’s success. But bringing Palance back to play a different yet extremely similar character was a little shady.

Sudden Sibling Lame-o-meter Rating: It Appears That Curly’s “One Thing” Was Sequel Money.

DeathStarReturn of the Jedi (1983): The Empire built another Death Star with an even bigger weakness.

Now, I really don’t mean to dis Jedi — in all honesty I love the movie — but I distinctly remember groaning when I discovered the plot was primarily a rehash of Star Wars (1977): the Empire has built another Death Star, only this time with an unstable reactor thingy smack dab in its center, because that way it’s still possible for the Rebel Alliance to blow it up. And let’s not forget that Yoda was against the idea of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) facing off against Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), yet when Luke returns to Dagobah in Jedi, Yoda says his training will be complete after he does one last thing: “Vader … you must confront Vader.”

Lazy Writing Lame-o-meter Rating: Whatever … Just Go With It.

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  • Just a Point

    I need to point out: Simon wasn't REALLY after revenge. He honestly didn't care that McClane had killed his brother. Revenge, like the bombings, was a diversion to help with the robbery.

  • http://www.filmednotstirred.com JeffJohnson

    Yes, I did mention that it turned out to be a diversion for a bigger heist, but I guess I could have been clearer. The point is, I was mentally done with the story by the time the “twist” was revealed.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    So the fact that Simon was such an uncreative bonehead and copied Hans' shtick to the T is better than him going on a vengeance trip (plus, Jeff DID allude to the fact that it was really about the heist, not the revenge.)

    With Jedi, I am constantly reminded that not only did the Rebels not see the Empire was rebuilding the Death Star, they didn't see it until it was more than halfway done. It's like someone in High Command gets the message that the Empire seems to be constructing something vaguely round-shaped, but decides to take a wait and see approach because, good Lord, they wouldn't be stupid enough to pull that Death Star trick again, would they?

    Then it's halfway finished and, wow, where did that half-completed Death Star come from?! Color me startled!

    With Alien 3, I have only one thing to say, just one thing: dog in an alien suit. That is all.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    It's the potential that galls me. Having undone two huge hostage situations, I really just wanted Simon to be some anonymous schmuck looking for anarchy, just playing games with McClane since he's proven to be so resilient in the past. We wouldn't get that degree of nihilism from a movie character until The Dark Knight's Joker, but it would have been interesting to see McClane trying to figure out some connection for Simon's motive, only to discover he has none.

    Instead, we get some sitcom plot device.

  • SeagirlX

    What fun reading! I love all aspects of film and love all kinds of analyses! Great read! Jaws is my all time fave film and it took me a while to accept the second one, and to me, there aren't #3 and #4. Number four was so ludicrous, I pretend it's not even related.

    I could not agree more on the Alien #3 and #4 too! Number four was a total embarrassment and I didn't even get it.

    Wasn't The Exorcist demon named Isuzu? I could be wrong, it's been a long time…but maybe I'll load that DVD tonight…

  • SeagirlX

    I stand corrected! I should know better. ;-) The demon was in fact, Pazuzu!

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    The second Death Star in ROTJ really bugged me, too.

    Fincher's DVD edit of ALIEN 3 is an improvement, but that beginning is a turn-off no matter what.

    EXORCIST II is a dazzling movie–if you can just turn off the dialogue track. Really ravishing visuallly. John Boorman's account of its turbulent production in his autobiography ADVENTURES OF A SUBURBAN BOY is riveting.

  • jamesballenger

    Alien3 – Only twice have I stood in a theater clapping after I learned of a characters death. Newt's (Riiiiipppppllllleeeeeyyyyy AAAAIIIIIEEEE – thank goodness for hyper sleep) and Captain Kirk in Generations. And the 4th (which rocks more than the 3rd) was co-written by Buffy's Dad and directed by the guy who did The City of Lost Children!!!!!
    Poltergeist 2 – In this one at least the guy was waaay creepy looking. I always thought the”sun shower” was a cool looking shot. In the 3rd one it's set in an apartment building, thus making the 2nd that much better.
    Die Hard – OK sure the supposed plot twist was lame, but you get Jules and Butch(Booootch) singing Counting Flowers on the Wall, anything that (if only barely) acknowledges Pulp Fiction is the shit in my mind . Also the jumping from the George Washington (not) to the soon to be exploding ship was shot in Charleston SC, thus making it pretty groovy in my mind.
    Return of the Jedi – Hey I agree with you. As a matter of fact the Imperial government decided to make it EASIER to attack the Death Star. Before you could barely get an x-wing in the trench, now the whole damn Millenium Falcon fits!
    Jaws, Exorcist, Poseidon – 3 awesome movies that should have ended there.

  • http://mulberrypanda96.blogspot.com rwcass

    Is your body supposed to be frozen during hypersleep, i.e. you stop growing? If so, another ten-year-old actress would've had to replace Carrie Henn. I assume that's one reason the character was killed off. Also, Ripley had to remain as Job-like as possible.

    I actually liked the cloning setup of “Alien: Resurrection,” but the movie itself wasn't very good. I read that Jean-Pierre Jeunet couldn't speak English at the time (maybe he still can't), so he used an interpreter to speak to the actors. But something was obviously lost in the translation.

    When I saw “Resurrection” in the theater in the fall of '97, my roommate's girlfriend screamed early in the movie, but it wasn't because of a surprise alien attack or a moment of gore. She screamed because Dan Hedaya's shoulder-hair tufts were suddenly exposed to a harsh backlight. That still makes me laugh.

  • http://mulberrypanda96.blogspot.com rwcass

    Is your body supposed to be frozen during hypersleep, i.e. you stop growing? If so, another ten-year-old actress would've had to replace Carrie Henn. I assume that's one reason the character was killed off. Also, Ripley had to remain as Job-like as possible.

    I actually liked the cloning setup of “Alien: Resurrection,” but the movie itself wasn't very good. I read that Jean-Pierre Jeunet couldn't speak English at the time (maybe he still can't), so he used an interpreter to speak to the actors. But something was obviously lost in the translation.

    When I saw “Resurrection” in the theater in the fall of '97, my roommate's girlfriend screamed early in the movie, but it wasn't because of a surprise alien attack or a moment of gore. She screamed because Dan Hedaya's shoulder-hair tufts were suddenly exposed to a harsh backlight. That still makes me laugh.

  • ibrodie

    It may sound sacrilege, but listen to the truly awesomely awful director's commentaries for Godfather II (yay) and III (boo, well, hmm), and the machinations required to explain why Clemenza didn't return (because Richard Castellano wanted to use his own writer for his dialogue) and thus introduce Frankie Pentangeli as yet another crew boss, and then why Tom Hagen is missing from III (because Robert Duvall can spot a disaster), ushering in George Hamilton. Perhaps not in the 'had a brother' category, but still pretty frickin' awful.

  • ibrodie

    It may sound sacrilege, but listen to the truly awesomely awful director's commentaries for Godfather II (yay) and III (boo, well, hmm), and the machinations required to explain why Clemenza didn't return (because Richard Castellano wanted to use his own writer for his dialogue) and thus introduce Frankie Pentangeli as yet another crew boss, and then why Tom Hagen is missing from III (because Robert Duvall can spot a disaster), ushering in George Hamilton. Perhaps not in the 'had a brother' category, but still pretty frickin' awful.